McAlister Musings: 2017-18 SoCon play begins for the Bulldogs

Link of interest:

The Citadel plunges into “scary” SoCon play

The Citadel is 5-7 so far this season, though only two of the Bulldogs’ victories have come against D-1 opposition. The big news in the early part of the schedule was negative, as 2017 SoCon Freshman of the Year Preston Parks was dismissed from the team and will transfer.

This post will cover the first three games of the SoCon campaign — December 30 versus Western Carolina, January 4 at Furman, and January 6 at Wofford.

First, some statistics. I decided to look at the numbers from the six games The Citadel played against “similar” opposition — in other words, none of the games played against non-D1 teams, and none of the contests against power-conference schools.

The games I selected:

The Citadel’s stats in those six contests (I’ve included national averages in some categories for comparison):

Poss Pts %2pt %3pt %FT 2M 2Att 2FG% 3M 3Att 3FG% eFG%
N.C. A&T 89 73 60.3% 20.5% 19.2% 22 46 47.8% 5 33 15.2% 37.3%
HPU 77 79 43.0% 38.0% 19.0% 17 39 43.6% 10 25 40.0% 50.0%
Marist 90 91 37.4% 49.5% 13.2% 17 37 45.9% 15 42 35.7% 50.0%
UMBC 78 72 50.0% 25.0% 25.0% 18 40 45.0% 6 29 20.7% 39.1%
JMU 80 84 52.4% 39.3% 8.3% 22 35 62.9% 11 24 45.8% 65.3%
Campbell 74 77 57.1% 27.3% 15.6% 22 48 45.8% 7 26 26.9% 43.9%
Avg 81.33 79.3 49.6% 34.0% 16.4% 19.7 40.8 48.2% 9.0 29.8 30.2% 41.2%
Natl. Avg. 69.9 49.5% 31.4% 19.1% 49.9% 35.0% 50.9%

 

FT FTatt FTA/FGA FT% OR DR TR OR% A A/FGM
N.C. A&T 14 21 26.6% 66.7% 17 25 42 40.5% 8 29.6%
HPU 15 23 35.9% 65.2% 15 21 36 41.7% 13 48.1%
Marist 12 17 21.5% 70.6% 10 25 35 28.6% 18 56.3%
UMBC 18 29 42.0% 62.1% 15 23 38 39.5% 15 62.5%
JMU 7 11 18.6% 63.6% 3 27 30 10.0% 18 54.5%
Campbell 12 16 21.6% 75.0% 12 24 36 33.3% 12 41.4%
Avg 13.0 19.5 27.6% 66.7% 12.0 24.2 36.2 33.2% 14.0 48.8%
Natl. Avg. 33.9% 70.7% 29.2% 53.0%

TO TO% A/TO Blk Blk% Stl Stl% PF
N.C. A&T 18 20.2% 0.44 1 2.2% 9 10.1% 20
HPU 17 22.1% 0.76 5 12.8% 11 14.3% 14
Marist 12 13.3% 1.5 1 2.7% 9 10.0% 19
UMBC 10 12.8% 1.5 1 2.5% 9 11.5% 18
JMU 18 22.5% 1 4 11.4% 12 15.0% 20
Campbell 6 8.1% 2 3 6.3% 6 8.1% 19
Avg 13.5 16.6% 1.04 2.5 6.1% 9.3 11.5% 18.3
Natl Avg. 19.2% 9.4% 10.8%

 

The Citadel’s opponents’ statistics in those six games:

Poss Pts %2pt %3pt %FT 2M 2Att 2FG% 3M 3Att 3FG% eFG%
N.C. A&T 89 92 65.2% 22.8% 12.0% 30 43 69.8% 7 22 31.8% 62.3%
HPU 77 77 64.9% 19.5% 15.6% 25 53 47.2% 5 12 41.7% 50.0%
Marist 90 100 34.0% 54.0% 12.0% 17 23 73.9% 18 40 45.0% 69.8%
UMBC 78 98 40.8% 49.0% 10.2% 20 34 58.8% 16 42 38.1% 57.9%
JMU 80 82 48.8% 29.3% 22.0% 20 43 46.5% 8 25 32.0% 47.1%
Campbell 74 87 57.5% 27.6% 14.9% 25 48 52.1% 8 21 38.1% 53.6%
Avg 81.33 89.3 51.1% 34.7% 14.2% 22.8 40.7 56.1% 10.3 27 38.3% 49.8%
Natl. Avg. 69.9 49.5% 31.4% 19.1% 35.0% 50.9%

 

FT Ftatt FTA/FGA FT% OR DR TR OR% A A/FGM
N.C. A&T 11 15 23.1% 73.3% 6 41 47 12.8% 25 67.6%
HPU 12 12 18.5% 100.0% 14 27 41 34.1% 15 50.0%
Marist 12 17 27.0% 70.6% 6 37 43 14.0% 24 68.6%
UMBC 10 16 21.1% 62.5% 21 36 57 36.8% 24 66.7%
JMU 18 22 32.4% 81.8% 15 27 42 35.7% 18 64.3%
Campbell 13 20 29.0% 65.0% 16 35 51 31.4% 20 60.6%
Avg 12.7 17 25.1% 74.5% 13 33.8 46.8 27.8% 21 63.3%
Natl. Avg. 33.9% 70.7% 29.2% 53.0%

 

TO TO% A/TO Blk Blk% Stl Stl% PF
N.C. A&T 22 24.7% 1.14 3 7.0% 8 9.0% 18
HPU 20 26.0% 0.75 10 18.9% 12 15.6% 22
Marist 25 27.8% 0.96 6 26.1% 3 3.3% 17
UMBC 15 19.2% 1.60 4 11.8% 5 6.4% 23
JMU 17 21.3% 1.06 4 9.3% 10 12.5% 16
Campbell 9 12.2% 2.22 5 10.4% 3 4.1% 10
Avg 18 22.1% 1.17 5.3 13.1% 6.8 8.4% 17.7
Natl Avg. 19.2% 9.4% 10.8%

 

Observations based on those numbers (keeping in mind, it is just these six games, so sample size must be considered):

  • In these contests, The Citadel got more points as a percentage of its offense from 3-point shooting (34.0%) than does the average D-1 squad (31.4%). Free throws have not been a major part of the offense, at least compared to the rest of the country. Somewhat curiously, that has also been true for The Citadel’s opponents in this survey; in all games, however, that definitely isn’t the case.
  • The Bulldogs need to improve from the charity stripe, not just in quantity but in quality. The Citadel’s 66.7% rate isn’t good enough (and that number doesn’t significantly change when all games are included).  Conversely, Bulldog opponents are making their free throws at a solid rate.
  • Besides not shooting free throws all that well, The Citadel isn’t making a high enough percentage of three-point shots; the Bulldogs have been erratic at best from beyond the arc. That is why The Citadel has a below-average effective field goal percentage.
  • The Citadel’s offensive rebounding rate isn’t half-bad. Also, while the defensive rebounding rate for all games is terrible, when just these six games are surveyed, the Bulldogs look much better in that category. In other words, The Citadel is more or less holding its own on the boards against “like” opposition. The Bulldogs’ opponents have more rebounds mainly because The Citadel has missed more shots.
  • On offense, the Bulldogs’ turnover rate is acceptable. The defense is forcing its fair share of turnovers but needs to create even more, particularly of the “live-ball” variety.
  • The Citadel’s assist-to-made basket rate is slightly below average. Opponents are doing better than the Bulldogs in this area.
  • The steal rate for the Bulldogs is good, but is not nearly as impressive when the games against non-D1 teams aren’t counted.
  • According to kenpom, The Citadel’s average height (that is, the average height of the players on the court at any given time) is shorter than all but one D-1 team. (In case you were wondering, Southern Mississippi is 351st.) Therefore it is not much of a surprise that the Bulldogs do not block a lot of shots, and that their opponents will have an advantage on the other side of the court as well (the stat only takes 2-point shooting into account).

A few other points worth mentioning:

  • The Citadel’s bench minutes (all games) is second in all of D-1, behind only Northwestern State. This is reflected in the average minutes played by each player on the roster, with eleven Bulldogs averaging 10 or more minutes per game.
  • In terms of experience, the Bulldogs — well, they don’t have a lot. Per kenpom, The Citadel is 344th out of 351 teams in that category. That said, the Bulldogs do have a reasonable amount of returning experience, as their “minutes continuity” (the percentage of a team’s minutes played by the same players from last season to the current campaign) is basically average.

I’m still trying to decipher the myriad statistics provided via subscription by Synergy Sports, so I’m not going to do any serious breakdowns based on those numbers. (Synergy’s definition of a possession appears to be different from the one used by kenpom and most other analysts, which has complicated things.) That said, here are a few pieces of information to digest (all 12 games are included for these stats):

  • The Citadel is average to below average in most situational categories, but the Bulldogs are better than average at scoring when there is less than 4 seconds remaining on the shot clock. The Citadel is also better than most teams on the defensive side of the ball when the shot clock is about to expire. I’m not sure why that would be the case; perhaps routinely playing a chaotic style of basketball lends itself to keeping one’s head when the shot clock hits 5. Also, there is a sample size issue, since the shot clock is rarely a factor when the Bulldogs are playing.
  • The Bulldogs are good at running offense on out-of-bounds plays from under the basket, but are not nearly as good when in-bounding from the sidelines.
  • The Citadel’s most successful offense in the half-court is finding players coming off screens. Isolation plays and cuts to the basket have also been profitable.
  • The Bulldogs are below average on put-backs directly coming from offensive rebounds, and are not good at all running the pick and roll (the “roll man” only gets the ball 22.9% of the time on that play, if I’m reading the numbers correctly).
  • Defensively, The Citadel has struggled coming out of timeouts. Also, the Bulldogs have been poor defending out-of-bounds plays under the basket.
  • The Bulldogs have done a good job against the pick and roll. Conversely, spot-up shooters have fared well against The Citadel.

According to Synergy Sports’ statistical breakdown, the two most efficient offensive performers for the Bulldogs have been Matt Frierson and Alex Reed. In related news:

Freshman Alex Reed has earned a starting spot with his recent play, scoring 11 points in a Dec. 19 loss at Ohio State.

“Alex has turned into a really good player for us,” [Duggar] Baucom said. “He’s shooting well from 3-point range, gets to loose balls and is in the right place at the right time on defense.”

I’ll discuss more of the Synergy stuff when I more fully understand all the information, assuming I will actually manage to get to that point…

Below is a table of full-season D-1 only statistics of note for The Citadel (I’ll be using this same format when discussing the Bulldogs’ opponents). Keep in mind that A) this doesn’t include stats from the games against Oglethorpe, Trinity Baptist, and Point; and B) there are 351 teams in Division I.

– The Citadel’s adjusted tempo: 81.5 (second nationally; Savannah State is first)

The Citadel Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 99.3 257 113.2 334 103.5
Effective FG% 46.2 307 59.8 343 50.8
Turnover % 17.5 81 20.6 107 19.2
Off. Reb. % 26.9 239 37.3 345 29.2
FTA/FGA 25.5 325 26.8 44 33.9

Okay, let’s take a very quick look at the next three upcoming opponents:

Western Carolina — December 30, 1:00 pm ET, McAlister Field House

Western Carolina is 4-8, with two non-D1 wins. Seven of its eight losses are to kenpom top-150 opponents; the exception is a home loss to High Point.

WCU also has victories over Appalachian State and UNC-Asheville. Those are both decent wins (UNCA has beaten both Wofford and UNC-Greensboro).

– WCU’s average adjusted tempo: 70.5 (138th nationally)

WCU Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 98.1 275 108.3 271 103.5
Effective FG% 46.7 292 56.6 322 50.8
Turnover % 21.9 300 20.9 89 19.2
Off. Reb. % 26.0 263 35.5 331 29.2
FTA/FGA 28.9 281 42.2 303 33.9

Western Carolina doesn’t get to the foul line too often, but its opponents do. The Catamounts also struggle keeping opponents off the offensive glass.

WCU does force a lot of turnovers on defense, but it also commits way too many on offense.

Per one source that deals in such matters, Western Carolina is a one-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 170.5.

The prediction from kenpom: The Citadel 88, Western Carolina 87

Furman — January 4, 7:30 pm ET, Timmons Arena

  • Streaming: SoCon Digital Network

Furman is 9-4 so far this year. The Paladins have some solid wins (UNC-Asheville, Elon, Northeastern). Three of FU’s four losses are to kenpom top-50 opponents, all on the road — Butler, Duke, and Tennessee. The game against the Volunteers wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

The Paladins also lost at home to Winthrop by 19 points. That seems to be an outlier.

Furman is led by reigning SoCon player of the year Devin Sibley, who averaged 17.7 points per game last season. So far in 2017-18, the senior from Knoxville is averaging 16.2 points per contest. If he can improve his free throw shooting, he has a chance to be a 50-40-80 player (FG%, 3FG%, FT%).

Before playing The Citadel, Furman will travel to VMI on December 30.

– Furman’s adjusted tempo: 70.1 (156th nationally)

Furman Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 105.5 123 101.8 136 103.5
Effective FG% 51.7 142 51.9 209 50.8
Turnover % 18.2 119 21.5 65 19.2
Off. Reb. % 29.7 164 33.4 302 29.2
FTA/FGA 28.0 300 29.9 99 33.9

Free throws seem to be an irregular occurrence in Furman games. Other than the lack of charity tosses, the Paladins’ offensive numbers are good across the board.

Furman’s opponents have had an edge on the offensive boards, but FU makes up for that by forcing plenty of turnovers.

The prediction from kenpom: Furman 96, The Citadel 78

Wofford — January 6, 7:00 pm ET, Richardson Indoor Arena

  • Streaming: ESPN3

Wofford is 8-4 this year, with the eighth of those wins a monster victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Terriers are 2-0 in the ACC this year, having also beaten Georgia Tech in Spartanburg.

WC’s losses are to South Carolina (in the game that opened Wofford’s new hoops facility), Texas Tech, California, and UNC-Asheville. All four of those defeats were by at least 14 points, which makes the success against the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets all the more unexpected (well, at least the UNC game — Georgia Tech has also lost to Grambling State).

– Wofford’s adjusted tempo: 65.9 (330th nationally; the Terriers and Bulldogs will be an interesting contrast)

Wofford Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 106.5 112 107.3 259 103.5
Effective FG% 53.1 98 56.4 316 50.8
Turnover % 19.2 182 20.8 93 19.2
Off. Reb. % 22 326 30 208 29.2
FTA/FGA 28.3 295 40.5 281 33.9

Wofford’s blowout losses tend to skew the Terriers’ numbers to a certain extent. Wofford shoots the ball very well, but has also allowed some high-efficiency scoring games from its opponents (teams have taken advantage of the three-ball to an unusual degree against WC).

The Terriers are led offensively by Fletcher Magee, who is averaging 24.9 points per game. He is shooting an outrageous 55% from three-land, and that’s with a fairly high volume of shots (102 in 12 games). Magee is a junior from Orlando.

Wofford has two upcoming games before playing The Citadel. The Terriers travel to UNC-Greensboro on December 30, and host VMI on January 4.

The prediction from kenpom: Wofford 92, The Citadel 78

Happy hooping!

Game Review, 2017: Wofford

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” package, The Post and Courier

“By the Numbers”, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– AP game story

– Game story, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– School release

– Video from WCSC-TV (postgame discussion with Brent Thompson and Dominique Allen)

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

– ESPN3 video of the game

First, something not related to the football game but a bit more important:

Caroline Cashion, a mainstay on The Citadel’s soccer team for the past few years, was injured in the Bulldogs’ match against Chattanooga on Friday. She was hurt while attempting to head the ball away from goal; Cashion collided with one of the Mocs and went down heavily, immediately clutching her lower back after she landed.

Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier posted this message to Facebook on Sunday:

From Craig Cashion, father of injured Citadel soccer player Caroline Cashion: “Thank you to everyone for thoughts and prayers. Caroline still cannot move her legs but her feeling has moved from her waist to her upper thigh so she is improving slowly.”

Some Bulldog fans may recall that in addition to her high school soccer exploits, Cashion served as the placekicker for West Ashley High School’s football team, most memorably kicking a game-winning field goal against Summerville during her sophomore campaign.

Let us hope she makes a complete recovery.

Saturday’s loss was tough. The Bulldogs played hard, and often played well, but it wasn’t enough. There is only so much that can be said about a game like that.

A few random thoughts:

– I didn’t have any significant issues with the officiating in terms of specific calls, but the game management left a lot to be desired. There was no reason that contest should have taken over three hours to play.

A key third-down play for Wofford in the second quarter may have come after the play clock hit zero, but I wasn’t sure. The ESPN3 game replay would tend to indicate that the play should have been whistled dead, but it wasn’t and such is life, especially when league opponents face the Terriers.

– During the contest, I was more than a little startled to hear the P.A. announcer credit Wofford linebacker Michael Roach with a tackle on a kick return. Why?

Well, because Roach almost died last season after going into cardiac arrest during a game. I remembered his name (you could say I was predisposed to do so), and immediately tweeted a question, asking if he was playing again.

Not surprisingly (as Todd Shanesy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal soon replied), he wasn’t.

Later, Roach was credited by the P.A. with another special teams tackle. I had my suspicions, which were confirmed when I took another look at Wofford’s roster.

Wofford lists two players as wearing #43, Roach (who obviously doesn’t play) and linebacker Shaun Moore, a freshman from Spring Valley High School in Columbia.

It was undoubtedly Moore who made two tackles on special teams Saturday night, though the statistics don’t indicate as such. He is credited with participating in the game, however.

I don’t really know who was at fault for this particular episode of mistaken identity. I think it is probably up to the road team’s support staff to make sure the P.A. announcer (and his spotter) is given the correctly numbered roster. Whether or not that happened, I have no idea.

For a brief moment, though, I was left wondering if Michael Roach was making medical history…

– Near the end of the game, Brent Thompson was left with a tough decision in regards to when to take his timeouts on defense. There was a bit of nuance as to when he should take them. In general, he handled the situation reasonably well, though I thought he probably should have taken his first timeout one play earlier. Some might argue he should have done so two plays earlier.

It was a very tricky time/score management scenario. I was going through the various potential permutations myself and not coming up with any decisive answers, which is unusual for me, as I am one of those nerds who spends way too much time thinking about clock management.

In the end, it didn’t really matter once Wofford picked up its penultimate first down.

It mattered a little too much to a couple of guys behind me, though, who were loudly berating the coach as the clock wound down. I particularly remember one of them (maybe both of them) bellowing, “This isn’t high school!” as they yelled for Thompson to call timeout. “You’re paid to do this!” They shouted a few other things, too.

They were right about one thing. It wasn’t, and isn’t, high school. It is college. That applies to the coaches and players…and it also applies to the fans.

Thompson shouldn’t be immune from criticism — he is a professional, after all. There comes a time as a critic, however, when the point has been made, and over-the-top obnoxious behavior isn’t going to change anything or make things better.

In short, a couple of people need to grow up.

– The colored smoke routine for Military Appreciation Day was new (at least, I don’t remember seeing it before, but admittedly I could be very wrong about that). It led to a chaotic-looking scene on the field after the team made its run through the “Block C”.

To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the chaos. Let’s do that again.

– When the Bulldogs play again at Johnson Hagood Stadium in two weeks, it will be Homecoming. The opponent will be VMI, and the coveted Silver Shako will be on the line.

Would it be too much to ask that the team breaks out light blue jerseys and white pants for that game? Even if it is too much to ask, I’m asking anyway. C’mon.

As usual, the pictures aren’t the best; they aren’t the worst, either. No annotations, though the game action is in sequential order. My thanks to Spike The Bulldog for the pose in the initial photo (water bottle and all).

 

 

2017 Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on October 14, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. 

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

– Preview article in The Post and Courier

Russell Hubbs, linebacker and weightlifter

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

– SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #22)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #23)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/10 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Myles Pierce (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/11 radio show (video)

Promo for Wofford-The Citadel (video)

Wofford weekly media lunch (video)

Wofford highlight/postgame package for its game versus Western Carolina

ESPN3 replay of Western Carolina-Wofford game (video)

Wofford piling up wins

Offensive line paves way for Terriers’ running game

Game preview from SB Nation

My brief review of last week’s game against Mercer

Non-football links:

The Citadel plans to rebuild/replace Capers Hall

– Basketball season is right around the corner

Saturday will presumably be the last time in 2017 the Bulldogs will play a regular-season game with an early evening kickoff. The Citadel’s next four games (two at home, two on the road) are all set to start at 2:00 pm ET.

No kickoff time has been announced for the contest at Clemson, but it is highly doubtful that matchup will be a night game, particularly as it will be Military Appreciation Day in Death Valley.

Speaking of Military Appreciation Day, that designation is also in play for this weekend at Johnson Hagood Stadium. In the last three seasons, The Citadel has won all three of its games on Military Appreciation Day at JHS (against Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina, and Furman).

This week’s opponent, Wofford, is 5-0. Four of the Terriers’ five victories have been close, with two of them one-point affairs. Last week’s game versus Western Carolina was decided in overtime.

Key statistics for The Citadel through five games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 27.6 21.0
Rushing yardage 1535 551
Average per rush 4.9 3.7
Average per game 307.0 110.2
TDs rushing 14 8
Passing yardage 620 933
Comp-Att-Int 34-74-3 78-131-7
Average per pass 8.4 7.1
TDs passing 5 6
Total offense 2155 1484
Total plays 387 280
Yards per play 5.6 5.3
Kick returns-yards 8-158 12-236
Punt returns-yards 10-83 4-24
Fumbles/lost 12/4 4/3
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.4/38.2 2.8/27.2
Net punt average 37.1 37.3
Time of possession/game 35:12 24:48
3rd down conversions 36/77 16/52
3rd down conversion rate 46.8% 30.8%
Sacks by-yards 9-46 4-27
Field goals-attempts 2-4 2-3
Red Zone touchdown rate 15-23 (65.2%) 9-13 (69.2%)
  • The Citadel is 12th nationally in offensive third down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs’ defense is 16th in FCS in third down conversion rate allowed
  • The Citadel is third in rushing offense, and 21st in average per rush
  • Defensively, the Bulldogs are 25th in rushing yards allowed, 48th in average per rush allowed
  • The Citadel is fourth nationally in time of possession per game
  • Pass efficiency: the Bulldogs are 55th in FCS on offense, and 47th on defense
  • The offensive pass efficiency numbers include an average of 18.2 yards per catch, fourth nationally
  • The Citadel is 29th in FCS in scoring offense and 50th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 99th in red zone scoring offense (a number that includes made field goals)
  • Defensively, The Citadel is 41st in red zone scoring (again, counting field goals made)
  • The Bulldogs are 35th nationally in net punting
  • The 4.4 penalties per game committed by The Citadel is 10th-fewest in FCS

I included those red zone rankings, but I will point out that red zone TD rate (not computed on a national basis by the NCAA, at least from what I can tell) is a better barometer of a team’s success in that area of the field.

Also, it is quite possible that The Citadel’s opponents have been called for fewer penalties per game than any other team’s opponents in all of FCS. Bulldog opponents are only committing on average 2.8 penalties per contest; to give you an idea how low that number is, VMI leads the nation in fewest penalties per game…at 3.0.

The lack of flags thrown against The Citadel’s opponents has been an issue in league play for several years, of course.

Average yards picked up on first down by The Citadel in its five games this season:

  • vs. Newberry: 8.1 yards
  • vs. Presbyterian: 7.0 yards
  • vs. East Tennessee State: 6.0 yards
  • vs. Samford: 5.2 yards
  • vs. Mercer: 7.5 yards

At least the Bulldogs improved in this category. Some of that came late, and via the pass.

Usually, a correlating statistic would be the yards required to move the chains:

  • vs. Newberry: average of 5.1 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Presbyterian: average of 3.0 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. East Tennessee State: average of 6.3 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Samford: average of 8.8 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Mercer: average of 6.1 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down

Usually, but perhaps not this time. Incidentally, the Mercer game featured the Bulldogs’ first 3rd-and-short pass attempt of the season. It was not completed.

Wofford stats of note through five games:

Wofford Opponents
Points per game 29.0 21.8
Rushing yardage 1482 644
Average per rush 5.5 3.8
Average per game 296.4 128.8
TDs rushing 16 7
Passing yardage 551 887
Comp-Att-Int 31-59-0 89-139-8
Average per pass 9.3 6.4
TDs passing 2 6
Total offense 2033 1531
Total plays 328 309
Yards per play 6.2 5.0
Kick returns-yards 14-242 21-491
Punt returns-yards 10-97 6-77
Fumbles/lost 7/4 6/2
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 5.6/49.8 4.2/36.8
Net punt average 36.1 39.4
Time of possession/game 32:35 27:25
3rd down conversions 31/67 29/64
3rd down conversion rate 46.3% 45.3%
Sacks by-yards 5-35 5-24
Field goals-attempts 6-6 4-7
Red Zone touchdown rate 12-21 (57.1%) 10-17 (58.8%)
  • Wofford is 14th nationally in offensive third down conversion rate
  • The Terriers’ defense is 108th in third down conversion rate allowed
  • Wofford is fifth in FCS in rushing offense, and 16th in average yards per rush
  • Defensively, WC is 40th in rushing yards allowed, 53rd in average per rush allowed
  • The Terriers are 17th nationally in time of possession per game
  • Pass efficiency: Wofford is 31st in FCS on offense, and 28th on defense
  • The offensive pass efficiency numbers include an average of 17.8 yards per catch, fifth in FCS
  • Wofford is 42nd nationally in scoring offense and 32nd in scoring defense
  • The Terriers are fifth in red zone scoring offense (a number that includes made field goals)
  • Defensively, WC is 40th in red zone scoring (counting field goals made)
  • The Terriers are 14th nationally in turnover margin (and lead the SoCon in that category)
  • Wofford has yet to throw an interception this season, one of just three FCS teams that can still make that claim (the others are South Dakota and North Dakota State)
  • Conversely, the Terriers are 16th nationally in defensive interceptions
  • The 5.6 penalties per game committed by Wofford is 30th-fewest in FCS

Starting quarterback Brandon Goodson (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is completing 53.8% of his passes so far this season, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, with one TD and no interceptions. He is averaging only 2.9 yards per rush, but Goodson’s primary job is to run the offense and set up his teammates.

His backup, sophomore Joe Newman (5’11”, 177 lbs.) had a big play against The Citadel in last year’s playoff game, but has not seen as much action thus far as some might have anticipated. Newman has appeared in all five games for the Terriers, however, and it would not be surprising to see him on the field in a significant role this Saturday.

Andre Stoddard (5’10”, 230 lbs.) has stepped in as the new fullback in Wofford’s offense and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Stoddard attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville.

Slotback Blake Morgan (5’10”, 190 lbs.) is a breakaway threat. He had a 94-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage against Presbyterian, and is averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. The sophomore from Florida also had a 72-yard pass reception versus PC, and has accounted for seven plays of 20 or more yards this year. Morgan is listed as one of the kickoff return men this week as well.

Lennox McAfee (5’7″, 175 lbs.) is a junior from Nashville who can also break a game open. He is averaging 7.8 yards per rush, including a 57-yard TD run against Mercer. McAfee, Wofford’s primary punt returner, rushed for 63 yards against The Citadel last year in Spartanburg, but was injured in the Terriers’ playoff game versus Charleston Southern.

R.J. Taylor (5’11”, 190 lbs.) leads Wofford in receptions, with 11. Another wideout, Jason Hill (also 5’11”, 190 lbs.), caught a 75-yard TD pass versus Presbyterian.

Tight end Chandler Gouger (6’4″, 230 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-league choice. He had three TD receptions last season, but has yet to catch a pass in 2017.

Average size of the projected starters on Wofford’s offensive line: 6’3″, 297 lbs. That is the same height and one pound more (on average) from last year’s Terriers o-line.

Left tackle Ross Demmel (6’3″, 290 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-league choice. The Cincinnati native started all 14 games for the Terriers last season.

Chuck Rouse (6’3″, 320 lbs.) is the largest of the starters on the offensive line. The senior went to Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant.

Wofford’s defense is keyed by its line, which includes two preseason all-conference selections. One of them, defensive end Tyler Vaughn (6’1″, 270 lbs.), was a first-team all-SoCon pick last season.

The other two starters on the d-line are two tough widebodies — 6’2″, 320 lb. Miles Brown (a junior from Maryland who went to Sidwell Friends) and 6’1″, 305 lb. Mikel Horton. Brown was a preseason all-league pick, while Horton (a native of Kentucky) is a sophomore who had a very impressive freshman campaign for the Terriers.

Brown and Horton have combined for 5 1/2 tackles for loss (2 1/2 sacks) so far in 2017.

Inside linebacker Colton Clemons (6’0″, 245 lbs.) is a senior from Fayetteville, Georgia who currently leads Wofford in tackles, with 31. Clemons, a first-year starter, had nine tackles and an interception last week against Western Carolina. His father was a linebacker on the St. Louis Rams team that won the 2000 Super Bowl.

While the Terriers have a lot of good defensive players, arguably the one that impressed Bulldog fans the most last season was a true freshman linebacker, Datavious Wilson. Now a sophomore, the Hartsville resident (6’1″, 235 lbs.) led Wofford in tackles last season, with 97.

Devin Watson (5’11”, 195 lbs.) was a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection. The junior cornerback from Gainesville, Georgia is tied for third on the team in tackles and also has two interceptions this year.

Redshirt sophomore cornerback George Gbesee (5’8″, 180 lbs.) started 11 games for the Terriers last season. He was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. Gbesee has three interceptions this season, two of which came last week against Western Carolina (including the disputed pick that ended the game).

Luke Carter (6’1″, 220 lbs.) handles placekicking, punting, and kickoff duties for Wofford. The sophomore from Florence is 6 for 6 on field goal attempts (including a 44-yarder against Furman), and has yet to miss a PAT this season.

Miller Mosley (5’11”, 182 lbs.), who began his college career at the Air Force Academy, is the holder. He was a high school quarterback (and is also listed as a QB on Wofford’s roster).

Junior long snapper Ross Hammond (6’1, 225 lbs.), a third-year performer at his position, is the son of South Carolina’s Secretary of State, Mark Hammond. The senior Hammond played college football at Newberry.

The game on Saturday will employ instant replay review. It will be the second (and last) time this season Wofford plays a league game with instant replay review as an option, while it will be the second of four SoCon contests for The Citadel under the system.

Essentially, league games are being played under two different sets of rules this year, depending on whether or not a stadium has instant replay. I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: the decision by the SoCon to let conference schools off the hook for setting up replay until (at least) 2019 was dubious at best.

That inequity could be a factor in the conference title race. In fact, it may have already been a factor.

In Wofford’s victory over Western Carolina last week, the Terriers were the beneficiaries of two questionable officiating calls in overtime. A big run to set up the eventual game-winning TD appeared to be aided by a hold at the point of attack that was apparently not seen by the men in stripes. Wofford scored (from three yards out) on the next snap.

Then, after an amusing play (well, unless you were a Catamount fan) in which WCU quarterback Tyrie Adams was tackled by four Terrier defenders, one of whom happened to be the umpire, Wofford sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an interception. Earlier I mentioned two “questionable” calls, but to be honest this one wasn’t questionable at all. The Wofford defender clearly corralled the football after it had hit the ground, showed it to the nearby official, and was rewarded.

The ruling almost certainly would have been overturned on review, and the Catamounts would have had at least one more play. Without replay, Western Carolina didn’t get that chance.

If the game had taken place at Mercer or at The Citadel, though, things would have been different. That is a problem for the league.

It cost The Citadel (a small public school) approximately $15,000 to set up an instant replay review system at Johnson Hagood Stadium. I am not sure why the other schools in the league (besides Mercer) could not have done the same.

For some of the institutions, it might have been a financial issue. It may be the case, for example, that Wofford is cash-poor. That seems like the only reasonable explanation.

A few sports-related tidbits from perusing the minutes of recent Board of Visitors meetings at The Citadel…

From the June 9/10 meeting:

[The Citadel Brigadier Foundation] is on track to deliver $1.55 million for athletic scholarships this year, with a goal of reaching $15 million in the Memorial Fund Athletic Endowment by June 2018.

There was also a discussion about the fact that a decline in annual giving to colleges and universities is a national trend. As you might have guessed, millennials are to blame.

[The Chairman] reviewed the remaining agenda items…

…Other items of interest included:
 Arrival of the new Vice President for Communications and Marketing in July
 New plan for Capers and the final concept for the East Side stands
 Need for a parking garage
 Determining the vision of LEAD 2024
Challenges of having a winning football season

I can only speak for myself, but I welcome the challenge of having a winning football season. I would like to suffer such a trial on an annual basis.

In all seriousness, I wish more of the discussion surrounding that particular agenda item had been mentioned in the minutes, just for clarification.

From the August 3/4 meeting:

[Jim] Senter reported the athletic cadre is back on campus and is doing well. The basketball team will be going on a tour of the Dominican Republic, which will be funded by the proceeds from the Florida State game. Maybank Field has new turf, thanks to a gift from Mr. Bill Sansom. The seats on the East Side of the stadium will be ready for the 7 October football game; visitors will be put in the northwest corner of the stadium for the first two games. Although scheduling ACC games has become more difficult, games against Clemson have been set for the 2020 and 2024 seasons. The new baseball coach is doing well and is busy on the recruiting trail. We will have instant replay at football games this year at a cost of $15,000.

Gen. John Rosa also provided a report on the college in general. The retiring school president noted that, among other things, decisions about the next capital campaign had to be made, and a review of the potential compensation package for the president-to-be needed to be performed. He also stated that the “New President and spouse will ‘bring excitement’ to the college community”.

There was no recorded discussion about the potential level of excitement if the individual chosen to be the new leader of the military college wasn’t actually married.

From the August 7 meeting, a motion:

“That the Board of Visitors approves the recommendation of The Citadel Real Estate Foundation to move forward with the development process of approximately 3,800 seats on the East Stands of Johnson
Hagood Stadium as well as approximately 40,000 square feet of office, education and/or residential space. The Board directs The Foundation to develop detailed specifications, pricing and recommendations to
finance and fund the cost of the new East Side facility for presentation to the Board at its September meeting.”

After discussion, Colonel Harrington moved to amend by striking out “directs” and inserting “requests” and by adding after “presentation” “for continued evaluation.”

The amended motion was unanimously approved by the BOV. Much of the information that came out of this meeting was later reported by Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier (whose presence was also noted in the minutes).

From the September 14 meeting:

As moving the football game against Presbyterian College to Bailey Memorial Stadium in Clinton was expensive, the freshmen will only go to the Furman game this year.

I believe that originally the freshmen in the corps of cadets were slated to attend two road games this season, one at Samford and one at Furman. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, the trip to Samford got scrapped.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 20% chance of showers, with an expected high of 84 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 70 degrees.

It appears that fans may get a break from the heat and humidity of last week’s game at Johnson Hagood Stadium. We can only hope.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Wofford is a 5-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 43.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 34-point favorite over VMI; Mercer is a 7-point favorite over Chattanooga; and Western Carolina is a 14.5-point favorite over East Tennessee State. Samford has a bye this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 22.5-point favorite at Syracuse; South Carolina is a 2.5-point underdog at Tennessee (the same amount Arkansas was favored over the Gamecocks last week); South Carolina State is a 1.5-point underdog at Bethune-Cookman; Coastal Carolina is a 19-point underdog at Arkansas State; Presbyterian is a 14.5-point home underdog at Charleston Southern. Of course, PC was a 20-point home ‘dog versus St. Francis University last week, and won that game 26-14.

Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 41st in FCS.

Wofford is ranked 13th in FCS, moving up four places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 184th, while Wofford is 117th.

Massey projects a final score of Wofford 23, The Citadel 17. The Bulldogs are given a 34% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Samford is 23rd (up one spot), Furman is 25th (up 10 places), Western Carolina is 31st (down two from last week), Charleston Southern is 35th, Mercer is 36th, Chattanooga is 61st (down 7 spots), East Tennessee State is 64th (up 12 places), Presbyterian is 81st, South Carolina State is 82nd, and VMI is 112th (down three places).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Western Illinois, and Youngstown State.

– Since 1916, The Citadel has a 3-9 record for games played on October 14. The last time the Bulldogs won on October 14 was in 1961, a 10-8 victory at William and Mary in that championship season.

The Citadel has not won a home game on October 14 since 1950, a 19-12 win over Davidson.

– There are no changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the Wofford game.

– Despite outscoring its opponents overall by a 138-105 tally, The Citadel has been outscored 49-28 in the first quarter this season.

– Wofford has outscored its opponents 56-26 in the fourth quarter (and OT) so far in 2017.

– Among Wofford’s notable graduates are Carolina Panthers owner (and major Wofford benefactor) Jerry Richardson, longtime political operative Donald Fowler, and MSNBC anchor/reporter Craig Melvin.

– The roster for Wofford (per its website) includes 32 players from the State of South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (14 players), Ohio (11), North Carolina (8), Florida (8), Tennessee (8), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Alabama (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Maine, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

None of the Palmetto State players on Wofford’s roster attended noted gridiron power Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, which is decidedly odd (and certainly counterproductive) for a school with designs on recruiting in-state talent.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

This is going to be a different kind of game from any other The Citadel has played in 2017, in terms of expectations. I don’t think any of the “experts” believes the Bulldogs will win this week.

That is understandable, but I’m not giving up on Brent Thompson’s charges just yet. Wofford is formidable, but has also been a bit fortunate to be undefeated to this point in the season.

The last couple of weeks have probably not been easy on the home team’s collective psyche. However, this is still a talented, capable squad. It just needs to put together a complete performance.

I am hoping to see that happen on Saturday.

During the 2017 season, which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

– Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

– A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

– Preseason rankings and ratings

– The Citadel’s fans aren’t afraid to travel

For the fifth consecutive season, it’s time to take a look at this all-important topic. In this post, I’ll list which teams The Citadel’s opponents face before and after playing the Bulldogs, along with other items of interest (in terms of schedule “flow”).

I’ll also throw in a few odds and ends just for fun.

We start with the opener.

September 2: The Citadel opens at home against Newberry. The last time the Bulldogs played the Wolves (in 1997), they weren’t actually the Wolves — they were the Indians.

The only previous time these two programs met on September 2 was in 1995. The Bulldogs escaped that day with a 21-20 victory.

Newberry finished last season with a 35-33 loss at home to Tuskegee in the 2016 D-2 playoffs. That came after 10 consecutive wins for the Wolves, which finished with a 10-2 record.

After playing The Citadel, Newberry goes on the road again the following week, facing fellow D-2 squad Virginia Union.

September 9: Presbyterian comes to Charleston to play The Citadel. When the Blue Hose last squared off against the Bulldogs, in 2010, The Citadel prevailed 26-14.

The only other game in the series played on September 9 came in 1978, a 28-17 victory for the Bulldogs. It was Art Baker’s first game as head coach of The Citadel; 17,840 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium watched PC take a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored two unanswered touchdowns to make Baker a winner in his debut.

Presbyterian opens this season on Thursday night at Wake Forest, thus getting two extra days of preparation for the game against the Bulldogs. After the Blue Hose’s matchup with The Citadel, PC plays its first home game of the season, versus Campbell.

September 16: The Citadel’s first road contest of the 2017 season comes at East Tennessee State. It will be the second game played at ETSU’s new football stadium. The Buccaneers’ first game at their new home will be against Limestone in the season opener.

After playing the Saints, East Tennessee State goes on the road to play defending national champion James Madison. Following the Buccaneers’ game versus The Citadel, ETSU stays in Johnson City to play Mercer.

September 23: The Citadel is off this week. It’s a good time to take a vacation. At least, I think it’s a good time to take a vacation…

September 30: The Bulldogs go on the road to tangle with another bunch of Bulldogs, the group from Samford. In the series between the two schools, this will be the first game played in September.

SU itself must make travel plans in the two weeks prior to its game against The Citadel, as Samford faces Georgia in Athens and then Western Carolina in Cullowhee.

Samford then packs its bags for the longest trip in conference action, Birmingham to Lexington, Virginia (and a 1:30 pm ET kickoff). Two weeks, two games against military colleges.

October 7: It will be Parents’ Day at The Citadel, and the Bulldogs are hosting Mercer. Samford and Mercer will trade opponents, as the Bears play VMI in Macon the week before travelling to Charleston.

Incidentally, Mercer had the same scheduling setup with the two military schools in 2015. That year, the Bears lost 28-21 at home to VMI, and then fell 21-19 to The Citadel in Charleston.

October 14: The Bulldogs play Wofford at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Terriers open the season with two SoCon games (against Furman and Mercer), and then have a bye week before non-conference matchups against Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian.

Wofford hosts Western Carolina the week before playing The Citadel. The following week, the Terriers face Samford in Spartanburg, which is also Wofford’s Homecoming game.

October 21: The Citadel travels to Chattanooga for a matchup with the Mocs. It will be Military Appreciation Day at Finley Stadium.

The game against the Bulldogs is the second of a very difficult five-game stretch for UTC. After a home game against Furman, Chattanooga is at Mercer the week before playing The Citadel; the following two weeks are road games against Samford and Wofford.

Chattanooga gets a late-season bye week after playing the Terriers, which may come too late for UTC (though it conceivably could be well-timed, if the Mocs get through that four-game gauntlet unscathed).

October 28: This year, Homecoming comes in October for The Citadel, in a game against VMI. It is the earliest in the season the two teams have battled for the coveted Silver Shako since 1991, when the Bulldogs beat the Keydets 17-14 in the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk, Virginia. That contest was played on October 26.

VMI does not have a bye week in 2017. The Keydets play 11 consecutive games and end their season on November 11, at home versus Wofford. The week before that (and the week after playing The Citadel), the Keydets play East Tennessee State in Johnson City.

Prior to its game against the Bulldogs, VMI hosts Western Carolina.

November 4: Speaking of the Catamounts, WCU is The Citadel’s final regular-season home game opponent of the season. Western Carolina will play back-to-back games against Palmetto State schools, hosting Furman in Cullowhee the week before its game versus the Bulldogs.

Western Carolina is back in the mountains on November 11, playing Mercer.

November 11: The Citadel travels to Greenville to play Furman. The two programs have played on this date once before, in 1972, a matchup also hosted by the Paladins. The Citadel won that game 19-13, behind two touchdown runs by Harry Lynch and 102 yards rushing from Bob Carson (which included a 58-yard TD run). It was the final game at Sirrine Stadium for longtime Furman head coach Bob King.

The Paladins have a bye week before playing The Citadel this season, the only team on the Bulldogs’ schedule to have that benefit (not counting Presbyterian’s two-day head start after playing Wake Forest). Furman’s last regular-season game is at Samford.

November 18: The Bulldogs’ eleventh game of the campaign is against Clemson, the third straight year The Citadel will end the regular season against a Power-5 conference opponent. It will be Military Appreciation Day in Clemson (as was the case when the two programs met in 2013).

The Tigers face Florida State in Death Valley the week before hosting The Citadel. Clemson then travels to Columbia for its traditional season finale versus South Carolina.

A quick note on “option preview” situations in 2017:

  • Furman, Mercer, and Western Carolina all play Wofford before facing The Citadel, while the other league teams play the Terriers before taking on the Bulldogs.
  • Samford opens its season on Thursday night against another triple option team, Kennesaw State.
  • Clemson plays Georgia Tech on October 28 (and has a bye week before that game to prepare for Paul Johnson’s offense).

Just a few more weeks to go…

A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

Some other links related to the upcoming season for The Citadel:

Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

Preseason rankings and ratings

The Citadel’s fans aren’t afraid to travel

This year, the SoCon cohort will have its usual share of games against major conference teams, along with several intriguing matchups with FCS squads in other leagues. While there are four games against Division II schools, at least two of those D-2 teams (possibly three) are of playoff caliber in that division.

That said, I think contests against non-D1 teams should be avoided by SoCon schools (the same is true for basketball). I realize that putting together a schedule can be a challenge, but from a playoff perspective, it’s important for league teams to have as many opportunities as possible to accumulate victories against D-1 opposition. From that standpoint, playing an FBS team and a D-2 squad in the same season is less than ideal.

Every SoCon team will play three non-league games, with the exception of Western Carolina. The Catamounts have four matchups against out-of-conference opponents, because one of those four games is at Hawai’i. Thus, with the “Hawai’i Exemption” in effect, WCU is playing a 12-game regular-season schedule.

East Tennessee State is the only conference team that will not face at least one FBS opponent. The Buccaneers are only in their third year since re-starting their football program. However, ETSU will play at Tennessee in 2018.

Of the eight schools that are playing FBS squads, seven of them have matchups with teams from Power-5 conferences. The only one that doesn’t is VMI, which has Air Force as its FBS opponent.

Which SoCon outfit has the toughest non-conference schedule? That’s an easy question to answer — it’s Mercer. The Bears tangle with two SEC teams this season.

Around the league:

– Chattanooga:

The Mocs open the season in “Week 0” with a nominally neutral-site matchup in Alabama against OVC kingpin Jacksonville State, with the contest billed as the “Montgomery Kickoff Classic” and televised on ESPN. Chattanooga has lost four games to JSU since 2012; all were close, with two going to OT (including a playoff meeting in 2015).

UTC plays all three of its non-league opponents in the first four weeks of the season. After the Jacksonville State game, Chattanooga has a week off before facing LSU in Baton Rouge. The Mocs then host UT Martin, which won 7 games last season and has finished in the top 3 of the OVC in each of the last five seasons.

– Mercer:

Uh, yikes. After a Thursday night home opener versus Jacksonville that shouldn’t be too treacherous, the Bears will travel to Auburn (September 16) and Alabama (November 18). Good luck with that.

An argument could be made that Mercer has the toughest non-conference schedule in all of FCS. There are arguably three other contenders for that “honor”: Northern Colorado (which plays at Florida and at Colorado), Delaware State (at West Virginia, at Florida State) and Alabama A&M (the only FCS squad to play three FBS opponents this year).

My vote goes to Delaware State, in part because the Hornets were winless last season. Kenny Carter has a tough row to hoe in Dover.

– Samford:

This may be one of the trickier out-of-conference slates in the SoCon, at least in terms of being more difficult than it appears on the surface.

Samford opens the season at home on Thursday night versus Kennesaw State, which you may recall beat Furman last year (though KSU also lost to ETSU in 2016). I think Kennesaw State may be a “sleeper” team this season in the Big South. At least one preseason publication ranked the Owls in its Top 25.

The Birmingham Bulldogs keep the home-on-Thursday thing going in Week 2, playing a weeknight contest against Division II West Alabama. The Tigers are a solid D-2 program, having averaged almost 7 1/2 wins per season since 2009.

Like UTC, Samford wraps up its non-conference campaign early, as SU goes between the hedges to play Georgia on September 16.

– Western Carolina:

As mentioned above, the Catamounts are playing four non-league teams this year as part of a 12-game slate. The game at Hawai’i is the season opener.

WCU’s other three out-of-conference opponents are all from the state of North Carolina. Western Carolina hosts Davidson on September 9, and then travels to Boiling Springs (the N.C. version) to face Gardner-Webb the following week.

The Catamounts conclude regular-season play with a game in Chapel Hill against North Carolina on November 18, the first football game ever between those two programs.

– VMI:

The Keydets’ meeting with Air Force (September 2) is the first of its kind on the gridiron between those two military schools.

VMI returns to the post the following week to play D-2 Catawba, which went 5-6 last year but was 9-3 the season before. That 2015 campaign for Catawba included a two-touchdown victory over Davidson, the last time the Indians faced a D-1 opponent.

On September 16, VMI travels to Moon Township, PA, to play Robert Morris. The Keydets are one of two Southern Conference teams to have scheduled the Colonials this season; those are the only two NEC-SoCon meetings this year.

RMU was 2-9 last season, with one of the losses coming to another Virginia squad, Liberty (41-7). VMI and Robert Morris last played in 2013, a 37-31 2OT victory for the Colonials in Lexington.

– The Citadel:

The Bulldogs open with two home games against familiar non-conference opposition. The Citadel has played Newberry and Presbyterian a combined 102 times in its football history.

Newberry was 10-2 last year, and made the D-2 playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Wolves have played two D-1 schools in the last three years (Jacksonville and Charleston Southern), losing the two games by a total of nine points.

Presbyterian was 2-9 last season, with just one win in Big South action (versus Monmouth). PC opens at Wake Forest on Thursday night before travelling to Charleston to face the Bulldogs for the first time since 2010.

The Citadel ends the regular season with a game at Clemson, which has been a fairly decent FBS program over the past couple of years.

– East Tennessee State:

ETSU opens at home against Limestone, a Division II school entering its fourth year of playing varsity football. The Saints were 5-6 last season. Limestone’s only D-1 opponent to date was a home game against Jacksonville in 2014; the Dolphins won 61-10.

The Bucs then play the defending national champion, James Madison. That game will take place in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

East Tennessee State closes out its non-conference action with a home game versus Robert Morris, three weeks after the Colonials host VMI.

– Furman:

The Paladins open the season with a conference game, travelling to Spartanburg to face Wofford. Furman’s first non-league opponent is actually a former conference foe, as Elon will be in Greenville on September 9.

The following Saturday, Furman will play North Carolina State in Raleigh. FU leads the all-time series between the two programs, 8-4-4. The two teams last met in 1985, a 42-20 Furman victory. In related news, N.C. State hired then-Paladins head coach Dick Sheridan after that season.

Furman’s next game will be in Hamilton, New York, as Colgate will host the Paladins. It’s a relatively unusual Patriot League-Southern Conference gridiron battle. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more meetings between teams in those leagues.

– Wofford:

As noted above, Wofford will open at home against Furman in a SoCon matchup. In fact, Wofford’s first two games are in conference play (the second is at Mercer), and then the Terriers have a bye week.

Wofford’s initial non-conference game of the season isn’t until September 23, when it faces Gardner-Webb in Spartanburg. The following Saturday, the Terriers make the short trip down the road to Clinton to play Presbyterian.

On November 18, Wofford will play its last regular-season game of the year at South Carolina, the third consecutive year the Gamecocks have hosted a SoCon team the week before South Carolina plays Clemson. Last year, the Gamecocks beat Western Carolina 44-31; in 2015, The Citadel defeated South Carolina 23-22.

As a whole, the SoCon’s non-league schedule compares favorably to other conferences in FCS.

Only the Big Sky has more matchups against Power-5 conference teams than the SoCon (11* to 8), and the western league has 4 more teams in its conference for football. All 13 of those Big Sky teams will play at least one FBS team this year, however, with three of the schools facing two FBS opponents.

*I’m counting BYU as a “Power-5” program.

Several of the Big Sky teams expected to contend for the league title are playing opponents from the Pac-12, including Weber State (California), North Dakota (Utah), and Northern Arizona (Arizona). I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those teams pulls an upset (Weber State having the best shot, in my opinion).

Another Big Sky power, Eastern Washington, plays at Texas Tech in its season opener. I hope there is enough electrical power available in Lubbock to run the scoreboard for that one.

EWU also has non-conference games against North Dakota State and Fordham, the latter on the road in the Bronx.

While teams in the CAA have a combined total of 12 meetings with FBS squads this season, only three of those are against Power-5 teams (Towson-Maryland, Delaware-Virginia Tech, and William & Mary-Virginia).

James Madison has to like its chances against an East Carolina team that was defensively challenged last season. In fact, one offshore site currently lists the Dukes as a 4 1/2 point favorite.

Maine is playing two FBS teams. One of the games, versus Massachusetts, will be at Fenway Park (box seats above the 30-yard line can be yours for just $99 each).

The MEAC has six games against Power-5 squads (including the aforementioned two for Delaware State), the OVC has five (one of which is Jacksonville State-Georgia Tech), the MVFC has four, the Big South has two (not counting Liberty’s game at Baylor), and the Southland and SWAC also have two. The NEC has one (Central Connecticut State-Syracuse).

While it doesn’t feature any games against Power-5 opposition, the Patriot League does have three games against FBS teams (Colgate-Buffalo, Fordham-Army, Holy Cross-Connecticut).

Incidentally, I’m a fan of the non-conference schedule Colgate put together this year — games against Furman and Cal Poly (the latter on the road), and then stepping outside the division to play a MAC school. Well done, Raiders. Rob Stone must be very proud.

None of the Ivies will play an FBS team this season, and the same is true for the teams in the Pioneer League.

Of the teams ranked in the Street & Smith’s preseason Top 25, only eight are not playing at least one FBS opponent this season. Those eight squads include three MVFC teams (North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Illinois State); two Southland outfits (preseason #1 Sam Houston State and McNeese State); CAA power Richmond; Patriot League favorite Lehigh; and defending Pioneer League champ San Diego.

It should be pointed out that at least in the case of North Dakota State, the absence of an FBS team on the schedule certainly isn’t about an unwillingness to play teams in the bowl subdivision; rather, it more likely reflects the fact that fewer and fewer FBS programs are interested in playing NDSU.

In addition, two of the eight teams play each other this season. Sam Houston State hosts Richmond on Sunday, August 27, an attractive matchup that will be televised on ESPNU. It will also be the sideline debut for new Richmond coach (and former UTC boss) Russ Huesman.

On September 9, South Dakota State travels to Montana State in an MVFC-Big Sky intersectional affair. Another non-conference matchup featuring teams from those two conferences is Illinois State-Northern Arizona, which kicks off in Flagstaff on October 7.

Lehigh hosts Villanova in what could be the Mountain Hawks’ toughest non-conference test. It is also the season opener for both teams. Lehigh also has a potentially difficult game against Penn; like the Villanova contest, it will be played at Goodman Stadium.

San Diego’s non-conference slate includes a long road trip to Princeton. The Tigers are expected to compete with Penn and Harvard for the Ivy League title this season, after sharing the crown with the Quakers last year.

We are now less than two months away from the start of football season for almost every FBS and FCS team (Ivy League excepted). Can’t wait…

2017 preseason rankings and ratings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

Previous posts on The Citadel’s upcoming football campaign:

Inside the numbers: run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and more (including coin-toss data!)

A look at “advanced stats” from The Citadel’s most recent SoCon season

The Citadel’s fans aren’t afraid to travel

I think it’s time to take a gander at some preseason rankings and ratings. After all, what’s the purpose of even having a month of July otherwise?

First up, some rankings…

This year, the Street & Smith’s college football annual returns, after several years of being usurped by the byline of The Sporting News (which had been acquired by the same company that owned Street & Smith’s about a decade ago). Now, the magazine is going by the Street & Smith’s name again, a return to a tradition that began in 1940.

On a personal level, I was pleased to see this. For years, it was a somewhat of a tradition for my father to buy the Street & Smith’s annual in July (usually after we made a trip to the barber shop). I would voraciously read the magazine cover-to-cover, even the section on the “Little Three” (yes, back in the day S&S would routinely have a page dedicated to the preseason prospects for Amherst, Williams, and Wesleyan).

Anyway, the SoCon preview for this year’s annual was written by S&S assistant editor Will Long (who also wrote the FCS preview article in the magazine). Long is a resident of Charlotte who graduated from Clemson, so presumably he has some familiarity with the conference.

Long wrote that the SoCon “is as wide-open as it has been in recent memory.” His preseason predictions:

1 – Wofford (#9 in the S&S preseason Top 25 of the FCS)
2 – The Citadel (#12)
3 – Chattanooga (#18)
4 – Samford (#20)
5 – Mercer
6 – Furman
7 – Western Carolina
8 – East Tennessee State
9 – VMI

Sam Houston State is the magazine’s #1 team in its preseason top 25, followed by North Dakota State and defending FCS champion James Madison. Big South favorite Charleston Southern is #13, while MEAC standard-bearer North Carolina Central is #22.

The preseason FCS All-America team for Street & Smith’s includes Wofford defensive lineman Tyler Vaughn, South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard, and Western Carolina running back Detrez Newsome (on the team as a return specialist).

Other preseason magazines tend not to have specific previews for FCS conferences, but stick to national previews and Top 25 rankings.

Athlon ranks The Citadel #25 in its preseason list. North Dakota State is #1 in its rankings, ahead of James Madison, South Dakota State, and Sam Houston State. Wofford is ranked #10, Chattanooga #15, and Samford #18.

Wofford is projected to win the SoCon, with Chattanooga and Samford receiving at-large bids to the FCS playoffs. Based on the rankings, The Citadel is one of the “last two teams out” for making the playoffs, according to Athlon. 

Incidentally, the magazine’s online site posted an article that mentions Wofford as a “dark horse” candidate to win the national title.

The annual’s preseason FCS All-America team includes Charleston Southern defensive lineman Anthony Ellis, South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard, Western Carolina punter Ian Berryman, and two North Carolina A&T players — offensive lineman Brandon Parker and punt returner Khris Gardin.

Lindy’s ranks James Madison #1 in its FCS preseason poll. The rest of its top 5: North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Jacksonville State, and Eastern Washington. Wofford is ranked #10, Chattanooga #11, The Citadel #18, and Samford #22. Other teams of note include Richmond (#9 here, and in the top 10 of all three rankings for the magazines mentioned in this post), Charleston Southern (#12), and Kennesaw State (#25).

The Lindy’s preseason first team All-America squad for the FCS includes Charleston Southern defensive lineman Anthony Ellis and teammate Solomon Brown (a linebacker), South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard (who may have the most preseason accolades of any FCS player in the Palmetto State), and Western Carolina’s Ian Berryman at punter.

Lindy’s also has a preseason second team, and that features Chattanooga offensive lineman Jacob Revis, Western Carolina return specialist Detrez Newsome, and The Citadel’s Kailik Williams (listed as a safety).

For a couple of years now, I’ve been incorporating the Massey Ratings into my weekly game previews. For those not entirely familiar with this ratings system, a quick explanation:

Kenneth Massey (complete with bow tie) is an assistant professor of Mathematics at Carson-Newman University. His college football ratings system was used (with several others) for fifteen years by the BCS, the predecessor to the CFP. Massey has ratings for a wide variety of sports, but the lion’s share of the attention surrounding his work has been focused on college football.

Massey’s bio on the school website notes that he is “likely the most famous of C-N’s faculty” as a result of his ratings systems.

From the ratings website:

The Massey Ratings are designed to measure past performance, not necessarily to predict future outcomes…overall team rating is a merit based quantity, and is the result of applying a Bayesian win-loss correction to the power rating.

…In contrast to the overall rating, the Power is a better measure of potential and is less concerned with actual wins-losses.

…A team’s Offense power rating essentially measures the ability to score points. This does not distinguish how points are scored, so good defensive play that leads to scoring will be reflected in the Offense rating. In general, the offensive rating can be interpreted as the number of points a team would be expected to score against an average defense.

Similarly, a team’s Defense power rating reflects the ability to prevent its opponent from scoring. An average defense will be rated at zero. Positive or negative defensive ratings would respectively lower or raise the opponent’s expected score accordingly.

…the Massey model will in some sense minimize the unexplained error (noise). Upsets will occur and it is impossible (and also counter-productive) to get an exact fit to the actual game outcomes. Hence, I publish an estimated standard deviation. About 68% of observed game results will fall within one standard deviation of the expected (“average”) result.

Preseason ratings are typically derived as a weighted average of previous years’ final ratings. As the current season progresses, their effect gets damped out completely. The only purpose preseason ratings serve is to provide a reasonable starting point for the computer. Mathematically, they guarantee a unique solution to the equations early in the season when not enough data is available yet.

That lack of data won’t stop us from discussing the rankings, though!

Massey rates every single college football team — not just FBS and FCS squads, but D-2, D-3, NAIA, junior colleges, even Canadian and Mexican schools. This season, there are preseason ratings for 959 colleges and universities (Zorros ITQ, the football team at the Technological Institute at Querétaro, is the preseason #959 squad).

This year, The Citadel is #130 overall in the preseason ratings. As a comparison, the Bulldogs were the preseason #113 team last year and were #174 in the 2015 preseason.

The teams on The Citadel’s 2017 schedule are rated as follows (with the chances of a Bulldogs victory in parenthesis):

  • Newberry – #341 (98%)
  • Presbyterian – #296 (96%)
  • East Tennessee State – #279 (92%)
  • Samford – #143 (50%)
  • Mercer – #178 (74%)
  • Wofford – #110 (43%)
  • Chattanooga – #117 (36%)
  • VMI – #228 (87%)
  • Western Carolina – #208 (83%)
  • Furman – #169 (62%)
  • Clemson – #2 (0%)

The Citadel is favored in 7 of 11 matchups, with one tossup.

Don’t worry about that 0% number for the Clemson game, though. When I began simulating the game, on just my fourth try The Citadel beat the Tigers 31-20. Never bet against the Bulldogs.

There are matchup simulations for each game. Feel free to waste a few minutes of your time toying around with them.

Based on the ratings, here are the projected overall season records for The Citadel’s Division I opponents (there aren’t simulations for teams below D-1, so Newberry is not listed):

  • Presbyterian (2-9)
  • East Tennessee State (2-9)
  • Samford (7-3, not including a tossup game versus The Citadel)
  • Mercer (4-7)
  • Wofford (10-1)
  • Chattanooga (8-3)
  • VMI (3-7, not including a tossup game against Western Carolina)
  • Western Carolina (2-9, not including a tossup game versus VMI)
  • Furman (5-6)
  • Clemson (12-0)

Note: Western Carolina plays 12 regular-season games this season, because it opens at Hawai’i.

Let’s look at the FCS-only ratings for a list of select schools:

  • North Dakota State – 1
  • James Madison – 2
  • Eastern Washington – 3
  • Youngstown State – 4
  • South Dakota State – 5
  • Northern Iowa – 6
  • Jacksonville State – 7
  • Wofford – 8
  • Chattanooga – 9
  • Sam Houston State – 10
  • Charleston Southern – 11
  • Villanova – 12
  • Illinois State – 13
  • Central Arkansas – 14
  • Richmond – 15
  • The Citadel – 16
  • South Dakota – 17
  • Western Illinois – 18
  • New Hampshire – 19
  • Samford – 20
  • Lehigh – 26
  • Cal Poly – 28
  • Princeton – 30
  • Furman – 32
  • William and Mary – 33
  • San Diego – 34
  • Liberty – 35 (ranked here despite it being a “transition” year for LU)
  • Colgate – 36
  • Mercer – 38
  • Stony Brook – 41
  • Delaware – 45
  • Fordham – 47
  • Kennesaw State – 50
  • Gardner-Webb – 52
  • Towson – 54
  • Grambling State – 58
  • Western Carolina – 59
  • Harvard – 61
  • VMI – 64
  • Dartmouth – 67
  • North Carolina A&T – 70
  • Monmouth – 71
  • Yale – 77
  • Holy Cross – 78
  • Elon – 79
  • North Carolina Central – 80
  • East Tennessee State – 90
  • Presbyterian – 94
  • South Carolina State – 96
  • Campbell – 110
  • Delaware State – 121
  • Davidson – 122
  • Mississippi Valley State – 123
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff – 124 (of 124 FCS teams)

North Dakota State is the preseason #1-rated FCS school, as it was last year. NDSU checks in at #58 overall. Other schools on the “overall list” that may be of interest:

  • Alabama – 1
  • Clemson – 2
  • LSU – 3
  • Florida State – 4
  • Oklahoma – 5
  • Michigan – 6
  • Washington – 7
  • Ohio State – 8
  • Miami (FL) – 9
  • Southern California – 10
  • Florida – 14
  • Virginia Tech – 15
  • North Carolina – 16
  • Louisville – 19
  • Tennessee – 20
  • North Carolina State – 23
  • Georgia Tech – 24
  • Notre Dame – 30
  • Georgia – 34
  • Appalachian State – 40
  • Northwest Missouri State – 46 (highest-rated Division II team, and I can’t believe it either)
  • Texas – 49
  • Wake Forest – 53
  • Vanderbilt – 59
  • Duke – 61
  • James Madison – 62
  • UCLA – 64
  • Kentucky – 65
  • Navy – 66
  • Air Force – 73
  • South Carolina – 74
  • Maryland – 78
  • Missouri – 81
  • Virginia – 83
  • New Mexico – 92
  • Georgia Southern – 93
  • Army – 99
  • Kansas – 104
  • Wofford – 110
  • Rutgers – 113
  • East Carolina – 115
  • Chattanooga – 117
  • Charleston Southern – 120
  • Coastal Carolina – 125
  • Massachusetts – 131
  • Ferris State – 136 (rated second-highest in Division II)
  • Marshall – 148
  • Charlotte – 152
  • Laval – 156 (highest-rated Canadian team)
  • Buffalo – 164
  • Texas State – 190
  • Butte College – 197 (highest-rated junior college team)
  • Trinity (CT) – 270 (highest-rated Division III team)
  • St. Francis (IN) – 280 (highest-rated NAIA team)
  • UAB – 285
  • North Greenville – 305
  • UDLA Puebla – 465 (highest-rated Mexican team)

Less than two months until actual official pigskin activity…

A brief look at “advanced” statistics from The Citadel’s 2016 SoCon campaign

This is a post primarily about the “Five Factors” of college football.

What are the Five Factors? I’ll let Bill Connelly of SB Nation explain:

…I’ve come to realize that the sport comes down to five basic things, four of which you can mostly control. You make more big plays than your opponent, you stay on schedule, you tilt the field, you finish drives, and you fall on the ball. Explosiveness, efficiency, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers are the five factors to winning football games.

  • If you win the explosiveness battle (using PPP), you win 86 percent of the time.

  • If you win the efficiency battle (using Success Rate), you win 83 percent of the time.

  • If you win the drive-finishing battle (using points per trip inside the 40), you win 75 percent of the time.

  • If you win the field position battle (using average starting field position), you win 72 percent of the time.

  • If you win the turnover battle (using turnover margin), you win 73 percent of the time.

Those percentages were based on 2013 FBS data. It’s now 2017, but they probably still apply. Connelly has made adjustments to some of the formulas that go into the five factors, but the basic principles remain the same.

What I wanted to do was see how The Citadel’s 2016 SoCon season looked when the Five Factors were taken into account. I’ve already gone over a bunch of stats in my annual post on per-play numbers, conversion rates, etc., but this is something I haven’t tried to calculate before.

It wasn’t easy, either. FCS statistics for the categories mentioned above basically don’t exist online (at least, I certainly didn’t find any of consequence). The fact the Southern Conference does not have league-only online stats didn’t help.

However, I put together a small package for The Citadel’s season. It is far from perfect, and may not mean much to some people (perhaps for good reason).

There are still almost two months before the opening kickoff, though. So at the very least, it’s better than not talking about football at all.

I’m going to go over the Five Factors now. Afterwards, there are three other statistical categories of note I wanted to briefly discuss. One of them in particular struck me as worth mentioning.

First things first: a spreadsheet! The spreadsheet includes individual game statistics for all of these categories.

Again, a reminder — these stats are for SoCon games only. Also, overtime statistics are not included.

Also, I’m going to use FBS numbers for comparison purposes throughout this post, mainly because there are no FCS equivalent stats online. I’m guessing that if FCS stats were available, they would be similar to those from FBS. At least, I hope so…

Field position

I think field position is possibly the easiest of the Five Factors to understand. The one thing to think about with field position is this: you measure an offense’s effectiveness (in terms of field position) by the starting field position of its defense (and vice versa).

Also, special teams play is obviously important. Net punting, kickoff coverage, the return game — all of that matters.

The FBS national average for starting field position in 2016 was the 29.7 yard line.

-Average starting yard line of offensive drives-

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 32 26.5 5.5
(Road) 32.25 29 3.25
Total 32.125 27.75 4.375

The Citadel won the field position battle in five of eight games. One of the things that helped the Bulldogs the most in this aspect of the game was the “three-and-out” differential.

Simply put, The Citadel’s defense did a good job of forcing the other team off the field in three plays or less (the “less” occurring when the Bulldogs’ D created a turnover). The offense tended to have longer drives than its opponents, and that usually tilted the playing field in The Citadel’s favor.

The Citadel’s offense had a “3-and-out+” rate of 27.5%, while Bulldogs opponents had a rate of 35.2%. That 7.7% differential was substantial. It would have ranked in the top 35 in FBS, for example.

The top 3 defenses in FBS in 3-and-out+ differential in 2016 were Temple, Clemson, and Ohio State; each had a differential of more than 17%. Those three teams had a combined record of 35-7, with two league titles and two CFP bids (including the playoff winner).

The Bulldogs also benefited from good special teams, particularly kickoffs.

The net punting does not show up quite as well; I find that frankly puzzling, because The Citadel had a generally solid performance from its punt team all season (with the exception of a blocked punt against Wofford).

My guess is that because there wasn’t as much field to work with a lot of the time (as the Bulldogs often had a territorial advantage in individual contests), that there were only so many net punting yards to be had.

Also of note, The Citadel had significantly better net punt/kickoff numbers at home.

Efficiency

With efficiency, we’re talking about a statistic called “Success Rate”. Here is its definition, via Football Outsiders:

A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

The FBS national average for Success Rate in 2016 was 40.9%.

-Success Rate-

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 48.20% 43.60% 4.60%
(Road) 42.10% 36.20% 5.90%
Total 45.40% 39.90% 5.50%

As was the case with field position, The Citadel won the efficiency “contest” five out of eight times in 2016 league play.

Incidentally, for the Western Carolina and ETSU games, only first-half statistics were calculated for Efficiency and the next category (Explosiveness). That is because both games were essentially over at halftime.

Bill Connelly, in his book Study Hall, expounds on this line of reasoning:

…The goal of the game for one team has changed from winning to making the game end as quickly as possible…the game is, in effect, over, and what happens after ‘garbage time’ begins is no longer truly evaluative of the teams at hand.

Defining when a game is no longer competitive can be tricky. After all, we’ve all seen big comebacks (The Citadel’s 2011 victory over Chattanooga comes to mind). Still, I think it is fair to consider the WCU and ETSU contests as no longer being in doubt after the first half.

The most efficient opposing offense against The Citadel in 2016 was Samford, which ran a successful play 50% of the time against the Bulldogs’ D. Then there was the game at Wofford, where The Citadel’s offense was only successful on 25% of its plays, by far the lowest percentage for the team all season in league action.

Explosiveness

How is this category defined? Well, with something called “IsoPPP”, and believe me, I had no idea what that was myself until I started researching this topic.

IsoPPP is the Equivalent Points Per Play (PPP) average on only successful plays. This allows us to look at offense in two steps: How consistently successful were you, and when you were successful, how potent were you?

This definition doesn’t really benefit The Citadel, because a lot of the Bulldogs’ successful plays last season were of the “move the chains” variety — five yards on first down, two yards on 3rd-and-1, etc. Every now and then, someone would bust a big play, but that was counterbalanced by all the “smaller” good plays The Citadel had.

This is reflected in the numbers, as the Bulldogs only came out ahead in this category in one of eight league games. Even ETSU had slightly higher “explosiveness” despite being out of the game at halftime.

That doesn’t mean this statistic doesn’t matter as far as The Citadel is concerned. Of course it does.

The Bulldogs need more big plays on offense. They can win without them (as they did in the Chattanooga game, when The Citadel’s longest play from scrimmage was Dominique Allen’s 15-yard gain on the offense’s first play of the game), but it’s much easier to move down the field in large chunks.

The FBS national average for Explosiveness was 1.27.

-Explosiveness (IsoPPP)-

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 0.924 1.109 -0.185
(Road) 1.068 1.132 -0.064
Total 0.985 1.119 -0.134

Finishing Drives

This category calculates points per trip inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. It’s more or less an elongated version of the “Red Zone” concept.

The FBS national average for points per trip inside the opponent’s 40-yard line in 2016 was 4.47.

-Finishing Drives-

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 4.5 4.1 0.4
(Road) 4.5 4.7 -0.2
Total 4.525 4.407 0.118

The Citadel had the edge in this category in six of its eight SoCon games. Of course, the Bulldogs also had many more opportunities to add to their “finishing drives” totals than their opponents; The Citadel had 40 such drives in league play, while their opposition had 27.

Turnovers

First, a table of the actual turnovers:

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 3 5 2
(Road) 4 9 5
Total 7 14 7

A net margin of 1.0 turnover per league contest is a good way to win a lot of games. In FBS, Washington and Western Michigan tied for the national best in turnover margin per game, at 1.29. Only six FBS squads had a net of 1.0 turnover per game or higher.

This next table is the “adjusted” or “expected” turnovers:

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 5.82 6.9 1.08
(Road) 3.58 6.7 3.12
Total 9.4 13.6 4.2

The difference is that The Citadel had a bit more “turnover luck” than its opponents. The expected turnovers stat is based on A) the idea that recovering fumbles is a 50-50 proposition, and B) that a little over 1/5 of passes that are “defensed” are intercepted. In other words, if a defensive back breaks up four passes, the fifth one he get his hands on probably should be a pick.

In case anyone is interested, I calculated the “passes defensed” interception rate at 22%.

Just because the Bulldogs may have had a bit of good fortune in the turnover department last season, that doesn’t mean a regression is imminent. They start on the same playing field as everyone else this year.

Now, let’s see how The Citadel did in the Five Factors on a game-by-game basis in league play:

  • at Mercer: The Citadel won 3 of the 5
  • Furman: The Citadel won 4 of the 5
  • at Western Carolina: The Citadel won all 5
  • Chattanooga: The Citadel won 2, UTC won 2, and there were no turnovers
  • at Wofford: The Citadel won 2 out of 5
  • ETSU: The Citadel won 3 out of 5, but 4 of 5 in the decisive first half
  • Samford: The Citadel won 0, Samford won 4, and there were no turnovers
  • at VMI: The Citadel won 2, VMI won 2, and each team had one turnover

As for the “what happened?” results, a few explanations:

– Chattanooga: a close game, obviously, that The Citadel won at home

– Wofford: went to OT; field position doesn’t account for the “Pitch 6”

– at VMI: the Keydets’ turnover resulted in a defensive TD; also, The Citadel crushed the “Efficiency” category

– Samford: went to OT, and, uh…

Two of the four categories that favored Samford were very close (Efficiency and Explosiveness). I think one takeaway from that game might be that when one team runs a lot more plays from scrimmage (86-64), it could have a “hidden” edge in efficiency no matter the numbers.

As it was, Samford was up 10 points with six minutes to play in the game. Then the tide suddenly turned on a Cam Jackson run on third-and-long. One TD later, one three-and-out later, one quick field goal drive later, and the game was headed to OT.

We move on from the “Five Factors” (well, at least I’m moving on) and wrap this up with three other statistical categories that I think could be of some interest.

-First down yardage gained per play-

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 6.69 6.06 0.63
(Road) 5.68 5.11 0.57
Total 6.21 5.59 0.62

To be honest, I was inspired to look these numbers up while perusing Athlon’s 2016 college football annual, which included statistical tidbits for all 128 FBS teams. Some highlights:

  • Western Kentucky’s offense led FBS in average yards gained on first down, with 8.9. That was well ahead of second-place South Florida (8.1).
  • The worst FBS squad in this category was Fresno State (just 4.4 yards gained on first down on average).
  • Minnesota’s defense topped FBS in allowing first down yardage, with its opponents averaging 4.3 yards.
  • I don’t know which team was worst in FBS, but FIU’s defense was 126th out of 128, allowing 7.5 yards per opponent first down. Butch Davis needs to bring in some players.

I also went back and took a look at The Citadel’s 2015 conference numbers in this area, for comparison.

  • The Citadel’s defense allowed an average of 6.09 yards on first down in 2015, including 5.47 yards per rush on first down and 6.80 yards per pass attempt on first down
  • The Citadel’s defense allowed an average of 5.59 yards on first down in 2016, including 3.29 yards per rush on first down and 7.98 yards per pass attempt on first down

The Bulldogs’ D just shut down the running game on first down in 2016. It allowed a bit more per pass attempt, but not enough to prevent an improvement from the year before of a full half-yard.

Okay, we’re leading up to something that is not on the spreadsheet, but which is important.

  • The Citadel’s offense averaged 6.49 yards on first down in 2015, including 5.94 yards per rush on first down and 11.04 yards per pass attempt on first down
  • The Citadel’s offense averaged 6.21 yards on first down in 2016, including 6.14 yards per rush on first down and 6.65 yards per pass attempt on first down

This is something that needs to change in 2017. The Citadel doesn’t throw often, but when it does, it has to make it count. That is especially true on a “standard down”, i.e. a down in which the opponent would not normally expect the Bulldogs to pass. First-and-10 is definitely one of those downs.

Averaging 11 yards per attempt is outstanding, but it is also something that you would almost expect to see in a well-oiled triple option offense. In a typical game, the Bulldogs may throw the ball on first down 2 or 3 times. With the element of surprise, at least one of those passes needs to go for long yardage.

-3rd down distance to gain (in yards)-

The Citadel Opponent Margin
(Home) 5.54 6.32 0.78
(Road) 5.85 10.33 4.48
Total 5.68 8.17 2.49

Air Force’s offense led FBS in yards to go on 3rd down, needing on average 5.5 yards to move the chains. I don’t have the complete list (or even a partial list), but I would suspect that 5.68 would put a team somewhere in the top 15 range, maybe the top 10.

Massachusetts had the worst offensive numbers in this category, needing on average 8.4 yards to make a first down.

Definition of passing downs: 2nd down and 8 yards or more to go for a first down, 3rd/4th down and 5 yards or more to go for a first down

-Passing down success rate: offense-

Rushes Pass Attempts Success rate
(Home) 64 17 40.74%
(Road) 57 22 36.71%
Total 121 39 38.75%

I think it is safe to say that not many teams in D-1 ran the ball 76% of the time on “passing downs”. That success rate may not look good, but it combines fairly well with the Bulldogs’ effort on defense.

-Passing down success rate: defense-

Rushes Pass Attempts Success rate
(Home) 17 60 35.06%
(Road) 42 45 25.29%
Total 59 105 29.88%

The Citadel’s defense was very good at stopping a receiver from picking up the first down after the catch, assuming he was still short of the sticks when he received the ball. This explains why opponents only had a success rate of 45% even on completed passes.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on any of what I just posted. This is the first time I’ve tried to perform some of these calculations; it’s possible I may not be 100% correct on everything.

However, if I thought it was all a bunch of garbage, I wouldn’t have posted it. I do have some standards, mediocre as they may be.

Any comments, suggestions, or corrections are appreciated. Also, if someone could hit the fast-forward button to football season, that would be nice.